When most people think of logging, the image of Paul Bunyan may pop into their minds: a man with a flannel shirt, a long beard, and an ax slung over their shoulder, able to chop down whole forests in a single swipe. While this mythical figure is beloved by many, a real look at the logging industry shows a more diverse, modernized process that helps fuel industry around the globe. Logging takes places around the globe, wherever trees can be found. Due to the universality of woodworking, logging sites deliver to even the most remote locations, and while loggers do still take advantage of the classic handaxe, their tools often have a modern tilt to them, including chainsaw mills and GPS systems. While the days of Paul Bunyan may be in the distant past for the logging industry, the history of this cornerstone of construction can still be seen today.
What is Logging?
Logging is the process by which trees are delivered to factories, mills, and other locations to begin the process of being turned into boards so they can be used for a wide range of projects. Logging includes cutting down the tree, cleaning it of branches, and transporting it to another location, though the entire process is much more complicated than it sounds. With the help of modern equipment, including electric chainsaws and trucks, modern logging is faster and more efficient than ever before. And thanks to the increased awareness of environmental preservation, many logging companies make sure to plant more trees than they harvest and work with scientists to avoid deforestation and interrupting endangered species’ natural habitats.
Logging from one area can supply locations around the globe thanks to modern technology, and with more sustainable carpentry and building practices, the amount of wood that goes to waste from logging production has been cut down significantly in recent years.
While there are some risks associated with logging today, logging has evolved from the rough-and-tumble lifestyle of some of the first loggers.
History of Logging
Logging picked up steam in the United States before the American Revolution thanks to the British need of tall trees for their shipbuilders. A good mast was made out of a single, tall tree, instead of multiple trees connected together. This drove much of the large-scale logging practices in the New England area. Thanks to the prevalence of rivers in New England areas, which were used to transport logs downstream to mills and port locations, as well as the large forest of timber, logging became a popular, though dangerous profession.
As loggers were forced to search inland for new logging locations, they moved further away from sources of water and food, having to drag their felled logs out on sleds pulled by draft horses. Early loggers faced dehydration, disease, and death due to unsafe logging practices, but these early loggers paved the way for modern advancements in logging. With the invention of the two-handed saw, as well as log flumes, which were water-filled channels used to guide logs down the river to their next location, logging became a cornerstone in many areas and helped drive Americans to move out West. Log driving was one of the many ways loggers moved their hauls back towards the coast. Log drives involved dumping freshly cut wood into a large stream or river and using the current to push the logs to their destination. Loggers wielding pikes would follow the logs as they made their way downstream, balancing on logs and using their pikes to move any stuck or tangled logs back downstream. Log drives were one of the most dangerous parts of logging in the past, both for the loggers who had the potentially deadly job of riding on the logs, as well as for the ecosystem of the rivers themselves, which were negatively impacted by the influx of timber.
Today, logging is more conscious of the dangers posed to both loggers and the environment, as well as to the people who live nearby to large forest areas.
Tools for Logging
Modern-day logging equipment relies heavily on electric tools, such as log splitters , wood chippers, chainsaws, pole saws, and sharpeners. These tools make it possible for one person to do the work of a whole camp of loggers in one day, and come in a range of builds and makes to help handle both large and small-scale logging operations.
As with every form of manual labor, safety gear is crucial to any logging operation, and things like chainsaw chaps, steel-toed boots, reflective clothing, durable gloves, eye protection, and helmets are all important to making sure loggers stay safe while working.
Other tools include log skidding tools like tongs, chains, and log arches to help move full logs from one location to another. There are also wood storage options that keep split and chopped logs off of the ground and safe from rain, snow, or other conditions that could slow the seasoning time.
With all the advancements in logging technology, some tools have stayed the same since the dawn of logging, including traditional axes and debarking hand tools that allow for greater control over the process at hand, as well as log splitting wedges and mallets.
Logging is one of the cornerstone industries when it comes to building everything from tall buildings to custom-made chairs and tables, the wood on your firewood rack, and is also responsible for all the raw materials you see at lumber yards around the globe. From large-scale logging operations to individual logging sites, felling and moving trees have become a cornerstone for countless other businesses.
However, with great need comes a widening consciousness of the impact left behind by irresponsible logging, which is why modern-day logging companies put a high value on maintaining environmental sustainability. Not only does preventing deforestation help stave off a lumber shortage, but it also helps sustain the environment, which in turn benefits the whole planet.
So next time you find yourself shopping for wood for your latest construction project, or even taking out a piece of paper to write down your grocery list, take a moment to think about where those materials came from and be sure to thank the loggers of the past for paving the way for modern industry.